Health & Wellness Articles

9 Ways to Tidy Your Budget—and Your Home

Get Rid of Dirt without Getting 'Cleaned Out'

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Marketers invest millions to convince us that we need the latest and greatest cleaning spray, detergent, and paper towel, so it’s not surprising that tidying up can quickly become a budgetary mess. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spent $639 on housekeeping supplies in 2009.

Without even realizing it, we’re tossing away more than $50 each month on cleaning chemicals, paper towels, plastic bags, detergent, soap, and other products that promise to make our homes shine and sparkle. The reality is that most of these products can be used more efficiently, replaced with low-cost options, or swapped with homemade alternatives. Plus, reducing our dependency on housekeeping supplies can be environmentally-friendly. By using fewer chemicals and reducing waste, you’ll trim your budget and help out Mother Nature, too.

Buy in Bulk: Pharmacies often carry the highest mark-ups for cleaning supplies. While grocery stores and big box retailers offer lower prices, your best bet is to buy cleaning supplies in bulk from a warehouse store such as Costco. Cleaning supplies often have a long shelf life, so you don’t need to worry about bulk products losing effectiveness over time. The key, of course, is to buy products you have been pleased with in the past.

Reduce Your Trash Load: The more trash you produce, the more garbage bags you waste. The good news is that most household trash can be recycled or composted. To make recycling easier, simply create recycling stations throughout your home. For example, place a small trash can labeled “for paper products only” in the home office. If you’re a gardener, composting is a great way to reduce your trash load and create free, nutrient-rich fertilizer. Composting is easier than you can imagine, too—this resource explains composting basics.

Tear Away from Paper Towels: Paper towels are convenient, but they are also costly. Name brand paper towels are priced from $1.20 to as high as $2.50 per roll. For most messes, a clean rag—which can be tossed in with the laundry and reused for years—is just as effective. Stash a dozen clean hand towels in a cute basket on the kitchen counter and use them to catch spills, dry hands, or wipe mouths.

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent: Creating your own laundry detergent is a fun way to save money—and it cleans just as well as the commercial stuff. Common recipes feature combinations of fragrance-free soap, borax, washing soda, baking soda, and other inexpensive ingredients.
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About The Author

Caitlin Boyle Caitlin Boyle
Caitlin Boyle writes a daily food and fitness blog, Healthy Tipping Point, which chronicles how Caitlin balances her busy lifestyle with healthy eating and exercise. She also runs Operation Beautiful, a blog that encourages women and men to replace positive notes in public places to encourage self-esteem and develop a positive body image. She is also the author of the book based on Operation Beautiful.

Member Comments

  • Vinegar is biodegradable. Vinegar is very inexpensive, Vinegar kills some forms of E. coli.

    Here is what chlorine bleach does: http://www.michig
    an.gov/docume
    nts/Chlorine_
    factsheet_82357_7.pdf
    http://www.epa.
    gov/kidshomet
    our/products/
    bleach.htm
    The more chlorine bleach is absorbed (through the lungs and the skin), the more damage it does. In children, because they are much smaller, it takes much less to do them harm--only a whiff or a splash. In adults, it only causes watery eyes, coughing and nausea when diluted for cleaning. Chlorine bleach should NEVER be used straight as it does not biodegrade and leaves toxic residue.

    Chlorine bleach can BLIND you. When mixed with tears, it creates a strong acid that will eat away your eyes quickly, especially since the eyes are mostly water and has no protection. - 12/19/2010 2:02:47 PM
  • I've never heard of vinegar being used as disinfectant-- will it kill something like e coli? It would have to to be a good cutting board cleanser for me. It would be nice if you would state the qualifications of the people you quote. I don't know if I trust the article or not. Good ideas or sloppy research? Not sure. - 11/9/2010 9:59:39 PM
  • Great article. SOme things I knew, some I didn't. I used vinegar for just about all of my kitchen cleaning. I put it in a spray bottle. It does a great job and really saves money. I also use hydrogen peroxide to help disinfect.
    Thanks for the great money-saving tips! - 11/9/2010 7:12:11 AM
  • We get plain white 'bar rags' from Target or Walmart and use them for many cleaning spots. They can be bleached and really come in handy! I use them in my classroom to clean up, too. Also, the blue 'car' rags in a box are stronger than paper towels and can last much longer. We carry a box in our car/truck and they are great to use around the house, too. - 11/9/2010 7:01:55 AM

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